10 common DIY home improvement mistakes – and how to avoid them

An artist's rendition of the DIY acronym.

Understanding the most common DIY mistakes will save you time and money. (Photo Credit: Public Domain/Kiwi0709 /Wikipedia)

For even the most industrious among us, home improvement via the do-it-yourself route is no easy task. Stealing from Murphy’s Law, if things can take twice as long and become four times more expensive than original cost estimates, they will. In the interest of making your DIY life easier, here are the top 10 DIY mistakes, and how to avoid them.

#1 – Not having permits in order

While it may seem like a mere government money grab, having pertinent building permits in order before embarking upon large-scale DIY home improvement projects is important, noted Lou Manfredini, Ace Hardware’s “Helpful Hardware Man,” to Bankrate.

“They’re there to make sure the job is done right and you don’t hurt yourself,” he said.

It should be noted that insurance carriers will typically require documented proof that a project was performed in accordance with the requirements of your municipality.

#2 – Not having the proper tools and supplies

Not only is it a good idea to be prepared before embarking upon a DIY project, but it’s advisable to borrow a page from the professionals. As Manfredini notes, this includes paying a little bit more for the right tools for the job.

[This may require payday installment loans.]

#3 – An unprepared job site

Ed Del Grande of the DIY Network’s “Warehouse Warrior” show advises that if a consumer undertaking a home improvement DIY project where suppliers will be delivering materials to the job site, said site should be prepared for storage. Leaving tools and building materials outside and exposed to the elements not only indicates a lack of care and respect for the process, but it sends an open invitation for theft.

Plus, as Bankrate notes, make sure the delivery truck does not back over your septic tank. If it is in any way exposed, mark off the area clearly so messy accidents can be avoided.

#4 – Settling on the cheap stuff

Don’t use 1/4-inch drywall when only 5/8-inch will effectively damper sound. Similarly, use thicker plywood for added strength. The more a DIYer seeks to save on home improvement supplies, the more it will cost later in headaches and repair costs.

#5 – Choosing the wrong type of paint

Painting is a great way to spruce up – or ruin – a room. Don’t settle on flat paint for walls, as it generally is less washable – a bad thing if you have creative young children. Go for something with an eggshell or satin finish, notes Manfredini. For wooden decks, “sun and rain tear the heck out of the wood,” he said.

#6 – Prepping the walls first

Don’t just slap on primer and paint when you’re looking to spruce up those walls. Clean the walls, sand them and patch any noticeable holes. Then go for the primer or stain blocker, particularly if you plan to paint over oil-based paints, stains or peels. This process is also quite important if you’re going to be covering a darker color with something lighter.

#7 – Not taking proper safety precautions

Having safety goggles, gloves, a hard hat and a proper understanding of how power tools function can save you from costly injuries. The same can be said of maintaining proper ventilation when painting. Also, save your floor and people’s feet from damage by properly storing tools when not in use, in a tool belt or otherwise.

#8 – Sloppy measurements

DIYers worth their salt should know the mantra: “Measure twice, cut once.” Erring on the side of leaving things too long affords the builder the leeway of making it shorter. Too short means going back to the drawing board, which costs both time and dollars for building materials.

#9 – Ladder safety

There’s a reason why your ladder has the warning message “not a step.” It’s unsafe to extend yourself beyond the safe reach of a ladder. If you need more reach, get a bigger ladder or bring in a crane. Risking a trip to the emergency room is never worth the trouble.

#10 – Not knowing what you’re doing

It takes a wise and humble person to admit that they have no idea what they’re doing. If a needed DIY project is beyond the scope of your abilities, consult and, if need be, hire out help. Engineers and contractors you trust can help.

“If you have a saw in your hand and have a question about what you’re doing,” Del Grande says, “stop. Follow that little voice in your head.”

Boing Boing founder Mark Frauenfelder on DIY, mistakes and unschooling



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